CHL

Desjardins named Canada's 2010 World Junior team coach

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The Canadian Press
5/13/2009 7:06:23 PM
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CALGARY -- Willie Desjardins had better get used to it.

As soon as he told his wife, Rhonda, he'd been chosen head coach of Canada's next junior team, her reply was "'Well, we'll have to win six."

Canada will attempt to win a record sixth straight gold medal at the 2010 world junior hockey championships, which will be held Saskatoon and Regina starting Dec. 26.

Desjardins won't be able to escape the "six in a row" mantra, even at home.

"It's the chance of a lifetime," Desjardins said Wednesday at a news conference. "When people bring it up, it's just special, so I'll never get sick of it."

The 52-year-old from Climax, Sask., and head coach of the WHL's Medicine Hat Tigers steps into the shoes of Brent Sutter, Craig Hartsburg and Pat Quinn, under whom Canada won the last five straight titles.

Desjardins was an assistant under Quinn with the team that won gold Jan. 5 in Ottawa.

"His composure and his ability to handle the pressure was good for me to see and hopefully something I can learn from," Desjardins said.

Canada begins defence of its titles in Saskatoon versus Latvia. The host team will play all its pool games there and all medal-round games will be at the Credit Union Centre.

Dave Cameron of the OHL's Mississauga St. Michael's Majors, also an assistant to Quinn, was named associate coach of the squad. Andre Tourigny of the QMJHL's Rouyn-Noranda Huskies and Steve Spott of the OHL's Kitchener Rangers will be assistant coaches.

"It's recognizing that Dave was part of the program last year and I'll certainly count on him a lot," Desjardins said of Cameron's distinct title. "He'll have a little bit more insight than maybe the other two fellas because they weren't at the tournament, so I think that's the only difference."

The Tigers won WHL titles under Desjardins in 2004 and 2007 and he was named the Canadian Hockey League's coach of the year in 2006.

Prior to taking over the Tigers in 2002, Desjardins coached in Japan on two separate occasions. He was an assistant coach to Mike Johnston with the national men's team in 1998-99 and at the 1999 world championship.

His ties to Saskatoon are strong as Desjardins captained the University of Saskatchewan Huskies and also coached the WHL's Saskatoon Blades in 1997 before joining the national team.

"It's hard to get it more special than it could already be, but being in Saskatchewan will be great," he said.

There are 10 players eligible to return from the team that won gold in Ottawa: Defencemen Colton Teubert, Tyler Myers, Alex Pietrangelo and Ryan Ellis and forwards Jordan Eberle, Stefan Della Rovere, Cody Hodgson, John Tavares, Patrice Cormier and Evander Kane.

But some of them will graduate to the NHL and never play again for the national junior team. Tavares is the top-ranked prospect for the NHL draft in June.

Desjardins plans to remain in his newly-appointed post. Benoit Groulx was initially selected coach of the 2009 squad, but later vacated the position to take an American Hockey League job. Quinn was Groulx's replacement.

"I've always wanted to do this and it's my chance to do it, so to take away that chance, I can't imagine that happening," Desjardins said.

Canada's junior team coaches aren't contractually obligated to stay with the team after they are named.

"We always ask them if they'll stay," Hockey Canada president Bob Nicholson said. "If they get an offer they feel is better for them, it's best for them to move on."

The Canadian junior team had big names in the hockey world behind the bench for their last five gold. While Desjardins is well known in junior hockey circles, he isn't as familiar a name to hockey fans as Sutter, Hartsburg or Quinn, who have all coached and played in the NHL.

"When you look at all those names, Willie might have a bigger presence internationally," Nicholson said. "He coached our men's national team and coached in Japan.

"He knows the international game, so I think for the tournament that he's going into, the world junior, his background is as good as any of those. What he's done in Medicine Hat is one of the best records in the Canadian Hockey League."

The Tiger had missed the playoffs five straight seasons before Desjardins arrived. Medicine Hat's regular-season record under him since then is 292-159-28-25 and its post-season record is 62-42. He added G-M duties to his job description in 2005.

The Canadian team will hold a summer camp in August in Regina. The player roster will be chosen by Hockey Canada head scout Al Murray and is expected to be announced after the Memorial Cup concludes May 24.

Willie Desjardins (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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